The ASU Horn Studio

The Arizona State University Horn Studio
Information for current and future students at ASU and useful resources for the horn world

Professor -- Schedule -- Horn Study -- Audition -- News -- Horn Articles Online

Arizona State is a great place to study the horn!

  • Horn StudioLessons with an experienced performer and teacher with over 25 years experience.
  • Weekly studio classes; activities  include horn ensembles and projects geared toward building your performance skills toward your goals.
  • Frequent guest artists in studio class.
  • Affordable program with solid scholarship support available at all levels; TA positions regularly open for new MM or DMA students.
  • Big picture, this an excellent program that will prepare you for employment in the field. And also you likely can graduate from ASU with minimal debt, which will better set you up for flexibility in relation to future activities. Going to a very expensive school is no guarantee of a better outcome and will actually limit your options.
  • Great facilities and ensembles, located in a large metropolitan area with many opportunities for motivated students.
  • And, for undergrad Music Education majors in horn (or anything else!), there is no marching band requirement at Arizona State.

Check out this recent video for more in general about the ASU School of Music:

The video below is a slightly older view but gives another good look at the ASU School of Music:

Recent Student Successes--performing. In addition to students playing extra regularly with the leading orchestras in Arizona, The Phoenix Symphony and The Tucson Symphony, recent graduates have won auditions for performing positions groups including:

  • The Amarillo Symphony
  • The Arizona Opera Orchestra
  • Central Band of the Royal Air Force
  • Midland-Odessa Symphony
  • Musica Nova Orchestra
  • Navy Band Southwest
  • The Phoenix Opera
  • Symphony Southwest
  • The Tainan Symphony Orchestra
  • USAF Heritage of America Band
  • The West Valley Symphony
  • The Wichita Symphony

Recent Student Successes--teaching. In addition to dozens of K-12 music educators, recent ASU horn graduates have won positions with organizations including:

  • Arkansas State University
  • Arizona School for the Arts
  • Arizona State University (West Campus)
  • Boise State University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Colorado State University
  • Glendale Community College
  • Grand Canyon University
  • Interlochen Arts Academy
  • Mesa Community College
  • Montana State University
  • National Tainan University
  • Paradise Valley Community College
  • Phoenix College
  • Rosie’s House, A Music Academy for Children
  • Texas Wesleyan University
  • Universidad de las Artes, Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • Washburn University
  • Western Washington University

A Few Recent ASU Horn Graduates, with links:

And also note this former student of Dr. Ericson, from his time at SUNY Potsdam,

  • Heidi Lucas, Assitant Professor, horn, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

FAQ -- Questions from prospective students -- John Ericson

Some years ago, I had a long FAQ online here. I then simplified the site a bit, eliminated the page, but seeing similar questions continue to come in from many applicants this FAQ contains actual questions posed by prospective students in the years 2017-18.

How many of your graduates find professional gigs after college? Do they get jobs directly after graduating, or do they usually pursue a graduate degree first?

This is the proverbial $64,000 question. In the bigger picture, one way I recently saw it put was that graduating from the expensive/famous school is no guarantee of success, particularly after undergraduate study.

Using myself as an example, I went to a small college in Kansas as an undergrad, a conservatory for my MM, and my Doctorate is from a large university with a top tier music program. Of all horns whom I was in school with at all those schools, only maybe a half dozen are still in music full time, at least in the type of performance or higher education job of the type horn performance majors typically aspire to. A pretty shocking percentage of those 100 or so peers of mine got out of music nearly right away, while others were and still are what you might think of as “semi-professional,” with some high-level horn performing a part of their life, but other work that really pays the bills.

I think back to those peers often; I really don’t see myself as that much better than them, but here I am at Arizona State. The simple fact is that only a fraction of graduates from any horn performance program ultimately find full time positions such as applicants typically have as goals. The best will ultimately find good work (my winning the Third Horn position in Nashville was a key point in my career), but there are simply not a lot of jobs.

This leads to a trap to avoid. Attending a famous school with a famous teacher is no guarantee of anything. Schools and teachers try to muddy the waters on this a bit by expounding on their student successes, special programs, etc. But a big part of the ultimate outcome is you, how hard you work, how well you take advantage of the opportunities around you.

One way to gain some specific insights on this larger topic is this. Make a list of couple dozen horn players and teachers around the United States that you admire and would aspire to careers like theirs. Then look at where they did their undergrad studies. The results will be all over the map. They won’t be what you would guess. The best schools tend to attract more of the best players as students, but, again, going to the same school is no guarantee of the same outcome.

The other big point to note, a potential trap to avoid, is that I graduated from my undergrad with no debt at all! Going to a school such as ASU is really a good choice, you can get through the degree with potentially very little debt which really opens up your options for future study and work. The longer I am at ASU, the more I feel this really is a great place to study, with great performing opportunities and so much to offer.

Finally, there is a specific, ASU horn answer to the original question. Working backwards, almost always undergrad performance majors go on to other schools for graduate degrees, to polish up excerpts and take auditions and such. I hope with undergrad students to work out all the problems we can and to prepare them well for future study and professional performance. And ASU horn students have won jobs, information on that topic is outlined toward the bottom of this page.

Are you available for lessons full time, or will there be grad students who will also teach?

The answer to both parts of your question are actually yes. I am full time faculty at ASU; this is not just one of many gigs I do, so I am in my office teaching nearly every day and teach all of the lessons to horn performance majors. The program is large enough, however, that we also have two TAs in the horn studio. They assist (lessons split 50/50) with teaching the music education students in the lower rotation of ensembles, and also assist with horn ensembles, among other duties.

Bigger picture, my standard advice is on the undergraduate level you are better off studying with a teacher who is full time faculty at that school. For graduate studies, this is not as critical, but I still tend to feel full time faculty are more invested in your success than a part timer.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I aim to be practical and goal oriented. A key thing for me is to work with each student as an individual. I don’t have a highly defined “system” that all people must follow, there is no one special emphasis area – other than to work on problem areas and build up skills in an efficient manner. But to give a more traditional answer, I aim to be balanced in my teaching, with a fairly even split between etudes, solos, and orchestral excerpts. The mission statement of the studio reflects the goals of my teaching style: “Our mission at the ASU horn studio is to strive for excellence in performance and to encourage and challenge each other in a supportive atmosphere.”

This is a good point to add one more point. I am very sure after more than 20 years of full time teaching that all players can’t play the same way. Some teachers, however, seem to have the goal of making all their students do exactly the same things, some of which may not be physiologically accurate or even possible! Their system may work beautifully for them and a subset of players. But be aware, it may not actually work for you, and at the wrong school you could feel stuck.

Do you have any advice you usually give to incoming students that I could benefit from? For auditions, applying, anything would be appreciated.

For auditions, I would say as a main note it is not so much what you play as how you play it. We are listening for potential; play music that shows your best qualities. The side points would be that we ask scales and sight-reading in auditions. You can practice sight-reading, and for sure can practice scales! You would be surprised how many come to audition who don’t have their scales worked out very well. Showing a good technical foundation is one of the ways you show us your potential to improve.

In terms of applying, a tip would be to really put some effort into your application and in particular to the essays or personal statements. They do factor into scholarships.

Also, ASU is very generous to smart undergraduate applicants, many horn applicants receive large academic awards, and with a good audition we can add more on top of that. This is a very affordable place to study.

If I come for an audition, would there be an accompanist I can use?

No, but you don’t need one! This question comes in fairly often. I think of all the brass auditions I have ever heard at any school I have taught at only maybe three or four auditions had a pianist present, I think in all cases the mother of the applicant. If you were auditioning in voice, yes, a pianist would be provided. But on horn, you don’t need one for your audition, and to have one would actually be highly unusual. If memory serves, only one horn applicant I have ever heard had a pianist at the ASU audition in the past 17 years.

Would you consider doing a lesson via skype?

I always try to meet with prospective students for a lesson (at no charge) as part of your audition and decision-making process about college. As an alternate, I am also willing to schedule an online lesson with any prospective student via Skype (again, at no charge).

More Questions?
E-mail is one of the very best ways to reach Dr. Ericson. He is excited about the horn program at ASU and strongly encourage you to visit the campus. If you have any questions concerning your audition or horn playing, don't hesitate to contact him directly at

NOTE: See also the articles "Thoughts on choosing a school for advanced horn study" and "Thinking About Horn Study Next Year?" in Horn Matters.

Return to the
ASU Horn Studio

Arizona State University School of Music

Also check out the ASU Horn Studio on Facebook

Contact Dr. Ericson at: 
School of Music, Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0405
Phone: (480) 965-4152
Dept. Fax: (480) 965-2659.
Alternate E-Mail: